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Magnetism, has, I am told, advanced this opinion. And I have been likewise informed that the same, or a very similar idea, was expressed, a few years since, in a public lecture, by Rev. Sylvanus Cobb, of Boston.
Experienced Mesmerizers tell us that the subtle, mag. netic influence may be communicated to inanimate objects, and to the element of water, as well as to sentient beings; or, perhaps I should say, communicated or transfused through them, I have heard it alleged that whatever is a con luctor of electricity, is also a conductor of Animal Magnetism; and vice versa. Hence, it is said, the mesmeric influence has been conveyed through the medium of a cotton handkerchief. In connection with this particular, I ask your attention to the following rassage from the Acts of the Apostles, in relation to which I offer no opinion, one way or another. “God wrought special miracles by the hand of Paul: so that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs, or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them."*
The various considerations that I have now presented, (with some difficulties, other than those mentioned, which inseperably attend a literal interpretation of some prominent portions of the New Testament) should teach all religionists to be charitable and tolerant towards men of every sect and of no sect, who honestly differ from them in opinion concerning supernaturalism. I cannot discern * Acts, xix. 11, 12,
the rightfulness of making an implicit belief of all, or any, of the miraculous stories in the Gospels, a test of one's claims to a belief in Christianity; which is not an indefinable theory of miracles, but a harmonious system of religious and moral truth. Still, I am not prepared to say that I reject the miracles, so called, in toto. In some of them I see nothing but what is perfectly rational, and as easy of comprehension as the mesmeric phenomena exbibited in the present age of the world. Several of them were acts of benevolence-just such deeds as I should delight to perform, had I the power, Whenever I reflect upon the sad condition of the insane, who are tortured with demon-fancies; or of those who writhe hopelessly with the pangs of disease, my heart yearns warmly towards them, and I almost involuntarily exclaim, O that by outstretching my hand I might give you permanent relief!
I cannot say of all the reputed miracles, that I regard them as either impossible, in any sense, or absurd. In very many things which I cannot unravel or explain, do I cherish unwavering faith. I speak now of things which do not contradict my reason, but are simply beyond its reach. We are surrounded by mystery—nay, we are mysteries to ourselves. The connexion of mind-the sublime, deific power of thought-with gross materiality, is a problem which the wisest cannot solve. The influence of Sleep-when she lays her shadowy hand upon us, veiling from our sight each local boundary of the spot where We chance to meet, and leading us to some portion of that
“Wide realm of wild reality,"
the land of dreams,-is, despite the familiarity arising from its regular, nightly recurrence, utterly incomprehensible to the most acute philosophic analyst. And equally inscrutable are the causes of many other phenomena of our daily life. Many things once regarded as intrinsically supernatural, and actually beyond human power of discernment, have since been satisfactorily explained and shown to have been in accordance with strictly natural principles. And some things which to us are now inexplicable, may, at some future period of man's intellectual advancement, be fully disentangled and made plain. So I do not feel myself warranted to pronounce irrational the belief that Jesus may have wrought some wonderful deeds; (though, as I have said before, I do not believe he performed any work in opposition or suspension of any natural law, however much this may have been apparently the case):--and, on the other hand, it seems to me dogmatically presumptuous to assert that all the marvellous narrations of the New Testament must be true that no allowance is to be made for the tendency to exaggerate in the minds of enthusiastic, new-born converts, who all their previous life-time had breathed daily the very air of superstition, and whose reputed writings have since passed through dishonest hands—that to doubt the miraculous stories is equivalent to a disbelief of Christianity, and that he who does so should be branded with the conventionally awful epiphet of IxFIDEL!
In an account of an interview of Jesus with some of his early acquaintances, “when he was come into his own country,” and when “he taught them in their synagogue,
,” it is said that “he did not many mighty works there because of their UNBELIEF."* Now the
suggestion unavoidably arises, that if his “mighty works” were designed principally to remove “unbelief,” then those places where such unbelief was greatly prevalent were the very places where the convincing works were most needed! Perhaps you will say, however, that it would have been as useless as “casting pearls before swine" for him to have performed a series of miracles in the presence of hard, flinty-faced Unbelief, such as he encountered in the instance just cited. There would be considerable force in this suggestion, if the iniracles ascribed to Jesus were to be regarded solely as deeds of benevolence, wrought by the agency of merely human power, and not as special, God-ordained instrumentalities for engendering faith. The good which man seeks to do for his brother now, is often spurned, from the impulse of faithlessness. But the case is somewhat different with Jesus, if his wonder-working power were superhuman. Is unbelief a matter of more than human potency? And if not, was it impossible for superhuman agency to overcome it? Yet it seems that Jesus had attempted to perform some works, in the place referred to, which proved measurably abortive because those who witnessed or were the subjects of them lacked faith. That he had thus in.
* Matt. xiii. 53.
effectually wrought or attempted a few, is implied by the words, "He did not many mighty works there,” &c.
If we keep distinctly in view this acknowledged necessity of co-operative faith, it will perhaps assist us in our endeavors to attain an approximate apprehension of the specific nature or degree of that wonder-working energy with which Christ seems to have been endowed.
Did I believe in all the miracles attributed to him, especially the story that the piping winds and the billowy sea obeyed his voice and instantly subsided into quietness, I think I should believe in the Trinity. It seems to me that I should feel impelled, by consistency, to believe that Jesus was the very God, incarnate.
THE TRANSFIGURATION. This is recorded by three of the Evangelists.* Mat. thew relates it thus : "Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into a high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. And behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him. Then answered Pe. ter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, one for Moses, and one for Elias. While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold, a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: hear * Matt. xvii. 1-8. Mark, ix. 2-8. Luke, ix. 28–36.